As per the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), India's banking sector is sufficiently capitalised and well-regulated. The financial and economic conditions in the country are far superior to any other country in the world. Credit, market and liquidity risk studies suggest that Indian banks are generally resilient and have withstood the global downturn well.
Indian banking industry is expected to witness better growth prospects in 2015 as a sense of optimism stems from the Government's measures towards revitalizing the industrial growth in the country. In addition, RBI's new measures may go a long way in helping the restructuring of the domestic banking industry
The Indian banking system consists of 26 public sector banks, 25 private sector banks, 43 foreign banks, 56 regional rural banks, 1,589 urban cooperative banks and 93,550 rural cooperative banks, in addition to cooperative credit institutions. Public-sector banks control nearly 80 percent of the market, thereby leaving comparatively much smaller shares for its private peers.
As of November 11, 2015, 192.1 million accounts had been opened under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna (PMJDY) and 165.1 million RuPay debit cards were issued. These new accounts have mustered deposits worth Rs 26,819 crore (US$ 4 billion).
Standard & Poor's estimates that credit growth in India's banking sector would improve to 12-13 per cent in FY16 from less than 10 per cent in the second half of CY14.
In the past few months, there have been many investments and developments in the Indian banking sector
- Global rating agency Moody's has upgraded its outlook for the Indian banking system to stable from negative based on its assessment of five drivers including improvement in operating environment and stable asset risk and capital scenario.
- Lok Capital, a private equity investor backed by US-based non-profit organisation Rockefeller Foundation, plans to invest up to US$ 15 million in two proposed small finance banks in India over the next one year.
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has granted in-principle licences to 10 applicants to open small finance banks, which will help expanding access to financial services in rural and semi-urban areas.
- IDFC Bank has become the latest new bank to start operations with 23 branches, including 15 branches in rural areas of Madhya Pradesh.
- The RBI has given in-principle approval to 11 applicants to establish payment banks. These banks can accept deposits and remittances, but are not allowed to extend any loans.
- The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi (BTMU), a Japanese financial services group, aims to double its branch count in India to 10 over the next three years and also target a 10 per cent credit growth during FY16.
- State Bank of India has tied up with e-commerce portal Snapdeal and payment gateway Paypal to finance MSME businesses.
- The United Economic Forum (UEF), an organisation that works to improve socio-economic status of the minority community in India, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) for financing entrepreneurs from backward communities to set up businesses in Tamil Nadu
- The RBI has allowed third-party white label automated teller machines (ATM) to accept international cards, including international prepaid cards, and said white label ATMs can now tie up with any commercial bank for cash supply.
- The RBI has allowed Indian alternative investment funds (AIFs), to invest abroad, in order to increase the investment opportunities for these funds.
In order to boost the infrastructure sector and the banks financing long gestation projects, the RBI has extended its flexible refinancing and repayment option for long-term infrastructure projects to existing ones where the total exposure of lenders is more than Rs 500 crore (US$ 75.1 million).
- RBI governor Mr Raghuram Rajan and European Central Bank President Mr Mario Draghi have signed an MoU on cooperation in central banking. "The memorandum of understanding provides a framework for regular exchange of information, policy dialogue and technical cooperation between the two institutions. Technical cooperation may take the form of joint seminars and workshops in areas of mutual interest in the field of central banking," RBI said on its website.
- RBL Bank informed that it would be the anchor investor in Trifecta Capital's Venture Debt Fund, the first alternative investment fund (AIF) in India with a commitment of Rs 50 crore (US$ 7.51 million). This move provides RBL Bank the opportunity to support the emerging venture debt market in India.
- Bandhan Financial Services raised Rs 1,600 crore (US$ 240.2 million) from two international institutional investors to help convert its microfinance business into a full service bank. Bandhan, one of the two entities to get a banking licence along with IDFC, launched its banking operations in August 2015.
The government and the regulator have undertaken several measures to strengthen the Indian banking sector.
- The Government of India is looking to set up a special fund, as a part of National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), to deal with stressed assets of banks. The special fund will potentially take over assets which are viable but don't have additional fresh equity from promoters coming in to complete the project.
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) plans to soon come out with guidelines, such as common risk-based know-your-customer (KYC) norms, to reinforce protection for consumers, especially since a large number of Indians have now been financially included post the government's massive drive to open a bank account for each household.
- To provide relief to the state electricity distribution companies, Government of India has proposed to their lenders that 75 per cent of their loans be converted to state government bonds in two phases by March 2017. This will help several banks, especially public sector banks, to offload credit to state electricity distribution companies from their loan book, thereby improving their asset quality.
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) and the Finance Ministry are planning to raise the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) limit in private banks sector to 100 per cent from 74 per cent.
- Government of India aims to extend insurance, pension and credit facilities to those excluded from these benefits under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY).
- The Government of India announced a capital infusion of Rs 6,990 crore (US$ 1.05 billion) in nine state run banks, including State Bank of India (SBI) and Punjab National Bank (PNB). However, the new efficiency parameters would include return on assets and return on equity. According to the finance ministry, "This year, the Government of India has adopted new criteria in which the banks which are more efficient would only be rewarded with extra capital for their equity so that they can further strengthen their position."
- To facilitate an easy access to finance by Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs), the Government/RBI has launched Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme to provide guarantee cover for collateral free credit facilities extended to MSEs upto Rs 1 Crore (US$ 0.15 million). Moreover, Micro Units Development & Refinance Agency (MUDRA) Ltd. was also established to refinance all Micro-finance Institutions (MFIs), which are in the business of lending to micro / small business entities engaged in manufacturing, trading and services activities upto Rs 10 lakh (US$ 0.015 million).
- The central government has come out with draft proposals to encourage electronic transactions, including income tax benefits for payments made through debit or credit cards.
- The Union cabinet has approved the establishment of the US$ 100 billion New Development Bank (NDB) envisaged by the five-member BRICS group as well as the BRICS "contingent reserve arrangement" (CRA).
- The government has plans to set up a fund that will provide surety to banks against loans given to students for higher education.
The Indian economy is on the brink of a major transformation, with several policy initiatives set to be implemented shortly. Positive business sentiments, improved consumer confidence and more controlled inflation are likely to prop-up the country's the economic growth. Enhanced spending on infrastructure, speedy implementation of projects and continuation of reforms are expected to provide further impetus to growth. All these factors suggest that India's banking sector is also poised for robust growth as the rapidly growing business would turn to banks for their credit needs.
Also, the advancements in technology have brought the mobile and internet banking services to the fore. The banking sector is laying greater emphasis on providing improved services to their clients and also upgrading their technology infrastructure, in order to enhance the customer's overall experience as well as give banks a competitive edge.
Many banks, including HDFC, ICICI and AXIS are exploring the option to launch contact-less credit and debit cards in the market shortly. The cards, which use near field communication (NFC) mechanism, will allow customers to transact without having to insert or swipe.
Exchange Rate Used: INR 1 = US$ 0.0151 as on November 15, 2015
References: Media Reports, Press releases, Reserve Bank of India, Press Information Bureau, www.pmjdy.gov.in